Houghton, Harvey Alter and Charles Rice, all British scientists, have jointly won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the cure for Hepatitis B ailment. The Nobel Prize Committee said their discoveries ultimately “saved millions of lives”.
The virus is a common cause of liver cancer and a major reason why people need a liver transplant. More than 300 million people have chronic liver infections globally and about 600,000 people die annually from acute or chronic complications of Hepatitis B infection.
The highest prevalence of Hepatitis B infection is in sub-Saharan Africa with about 19 million Nigerians living with the disease. Majority of the people in these regions become infected during childhood and between 5–10% of the adult population is chronically infected.
In the 1960s, there was huge concern that people receiving donated blood were getting chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation) from an unknown, mysterious disease.